Pet Love


One of my personal care assistants (“PAs”) told me that it’d be easier to help me if I didn’t have a dog.  I do need more help with Toby (my current 12lb Maltese), and some PAs don’t like dogs, but I will always have a dog.

My family has had dogs for the past 19 years.  Before that, we had tons of fancy gold fish that my parents thought were good for me to stare at, a few birds that always managed to fly away, and a hamster that bit my finger.  I never liked the non-canine pets we couldn’t even pet.

Our mom didn’t want dogs initially.  But when I struggled in high school making friends, she became open to the idea.  My dad said that we couldn’t get a dog, unless it was a Jindo—the national dog of South Korea.  Jindos are hunting dogs with erect ears and rolled tails, extremely loyal to one person.  My parents can talk your ears off about Jindos, swelling with nationalistic pride.

A family friend gave us our first Jindo. He almost immediately became the love of my life and I was his one person.  He was protective of me and didn’t like my parents touching me for my personal care.  He grew to almost 75lbs and eventually accepted my parents helping me.

Our second Jindo was a girl and my mom was her person.  Angel became ~45lbs, the typical medium-sized Jindo.  Unlike my Jindo, Angel was shy towards people and loved hunting small animals in our backyard.

Fast forward about ten years, Angel died of a rare liver disease and I blamed myself. We put Angel down after I graduated law school.  I was a wreck for a year.  Angel’s death was so traumatic.  The hardest part of having pets is loosing them.

My parents got Toby, because my sadness was never-ending.  My mom wanted a small white dog, so we got Toby, a Maltese, whose loyalty changes.  It was love at first lick/kiss for me and Toby.

Toby has anxiety, but somehow manages mine.  He knows when my emotions are off and comes to kiss me.  I thought that dog classes might help with Toby’s anxiety.  Although I paid and went with to Toby’s classes, I was sad I couldn’t participate.  My sister did.  The dog trainers weren’t helpful, saying I’m too slow in dispensing treats as rewards and I shouldn’t hold his leash with my limited mobility.  Ablest?  Unsure.

I have difficulty finding activities I can do with Toby with my physical disability, besides kissing.  But after I moved out of my parents’ with Toby, I tried walking him by myself, jimmy-rigging a long leash I could connect to his harness with a carabiner.  I never figured out how to pick up after him from my wheelchair.

We tried walking like this a few times.  We enjoyed walking together.  But after the carabiner unclipped twice, disconnecting the leashes, I decided it was not safe and stopped walking Toby.  Fortunately, Toby never ran away.

Now that Toby is 12 and prefers my sister over me, I thought about getting another dog, maybe even a service dog.  When I asked my friends with service dogs, most encouraged me to get one.  One friend said I do not need a service dog, but a companion animal.  Since I rarely go out (even before Covid), she thought a service dog wouldn’t get enough exercise and stimulation.

I agree.  Although I have a significant physical disability, I have PAs who help me with all my care needs.  I do drop everything on the floor, but usually it’s nothing dire I need immediately.  When people asked if I’d get a service dog before, I’d say half jokingly I’d prefer a service monkey since it could do fine motor activities with opposable thumbs, like feeding me.

I am content with adopting an adult dog.  I’d prefer a medium to large dog, so I don’t need to help it onto my bed.  My mom got an even smaller Maltese I couldn’t grab.  Both dogs would not use dog stairs/ramps.  Toby uses an ottoman to get in bed, but it’s harder as he ages.  I made a makeshift elevator, but both were afraid of it.

I’d also prefer a dog that sheds.  Toby needs grooming, AKA doggy haircuts.  He hates it and it’s painful to watch.  It’s also an added expense and I can’t drive, so need to rely on others for grooming appointments.  I’ve accepted that I should not rescue a Jindo with multiple people helping me.

My mom’s Maltese died.  It’s hard now to find another dog with everyone wanting dogs with Covid quarantines.  There are many scammers.

Wishing you lots of pet love!

Written by Esther Lee


  1. Sarah
    February 24, 2021

    It has been a long time since I’ve seen your smiling face (since high school!). I was excited to see your name pop up on Backbone’s page! It was so nice to hear about your experiences with dogs. They are such great companions! Hope you are doing well!
    Sarah (Lam) Zoelle

  2. Esther Lee
    February 26, 2021

    Hi Sarah! Thanks for commenting!

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